Prior to COVID, the way in which we worked has long taken a toll on many. We need to admit the problems, take stock and reimagine a future that works for everyone.
“Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better.”
Anonymous Instagram Post
Over hundreds of client engagements I’ve seen the enormous impact of company culture, both positive and negative. Yet, until recently it wasn’t given much serious attention. Then in 2019 the Business Roundtable, a summit that brings a group of 200 top CEO’s stated something groundbreaking: that shareholder value was no longer everything and that workplace culture deserved equal focus. Long overdue, it was finally recognized that companies with better cultures outperformed those that paid little attention to their people. In a world of increasing corporate accountability, a strong company culture is no longer an afterthought – it’s become a pressing business imperative for our post COVID world.
Overworked and Stressed Out Most of the Time
Prior to COVID, the World Health Organization called stress “the health epidemic of our time”. Here in the US, our culture of overwork seemed also to have reached new heights. Even though many of us know that stress, particularly chronic stress, is pretty bad for us, many of us still subconsciously fall into societal ideals that tell us that being “super busy” and having little time for anything but work is normal or even good. Unfortunately, new research confirms what many of us already knew – most American workers are stressed – and that the problem is getting worse.
The perplexing thing about the norm of overwork is that long hours diminish both productivity and quality. For industrial workers this means more mistakes and mishaps. For knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level as creativity and judgement declines. Over time the cumulative effects of stress can lead to depression, anxiety and immune system problems.
Research shows that 60 percent of workers suffer from work related stress that costs US businesses more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs.
Here are some sobering stats:
- 80% of US workers are stressed on any given workday.
- 65% of workers say that workplace stress has caused them difficulties.
- 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress.
- 81% of people wished they could spend more time with their kids.
- 31% of workers cited that working overtime negatively impacted relationships with family members
- 52% of people work overtime.
- 47% of people work non-required weekends.
Adding fuel to the fire, fully 62 percent of Americans believe that the current presidential administration impacts work-life balance negatively. 43 percent of respondents cited increased stress levels due to this administration. Now that the COVID crisis is upon us, one can only assume that current levels of stress for all members of our society have increased markedly.
The Case for Wellbeing in Corporate Culture
Before COVID, forward-thinking business leaders were connecting the dots between wellbeing programs, the health and happiness of their employees, and business success. Research has shown again and again that happy, healthy and engaged people positively impact any business’s bottom-line. In a sweeping study, the Gallop Organization has shown that regardless of country or region, personal wellbeing is directly linked to improved employee engagement and business results.
Employees who have high levels of wellbeing are:
- 42% more likely to evaluate their overall lives highly
- 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change
- 37% more likely to report always recovering “fully” after illness, injury or hardship
- 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months
The results of successful wellbeing programs in large organizations have shown:
- 47% reduction in healthcare costs
- 36% improvement in workplace culture
- 35% increase in becoming an employer of choice
- 35% improvement in workplace productivity
- 35% increase in employee engagement
Wellbeing programs it would seem are needed now more than ever.
How to Improve Wellbeing
Traditional approaches to wellbeing focus exclusively on the physical aspects. But it’s it’s simply not enough to have available memberships to gyms, yoga classes and showers for those who bike to work. Though physical health is important, it only one factor impacting employee wellbeing. The best solutions focus holistically on social, emotional, financial, career, and physical wellbeing. To make a significant and long-lasting impact on your organization, it’s time to make the connection between the total wellbeing of your employees and your workplace culture.
From both a research and hands-on perspective, companies that institute programs aimed at helping employees integrate work and life end up with employees with much higher levels of wellbeing and as a result, are happier, healthier and more productive. These supported employees take fewer sick days and report higher engagement than employees of companies that do not offer well-being support. All this adds up to more robust bottom lines in terms of things like sustained innovation, productivity and reduced healthcare costs.
In this disaster lies an opportunity to reflect and change direction in the hope that we can create healthier workplace environments that work better for all stakeholders.